ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city police have been busy in recent months, with new equipment, training and projects as well as exceptional work from officers.
Chief Matt Arbenz said the department acquired a new drone, which has been deployed so far to search for suspects and to assist the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department. Patrolmen Andrew Klotz and Michael Wheeler are able to operate it.
“We’ve got two pilots who are certified through the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the drone. We’ve got blanket coverage. We can operate that drone anywhere in Belmont County legally,” Arbenz said. “The guys are constantly training on it. It’s a really great piece of equipment.”
Another upcoming outreach project is a Juvenile Justice Jeopardy program, aimed at teaching area children about the juvenile justice system, how to avoid criminal behavior, and appropriate interactions between police and young people in various venues. Students from eighth grade and up will be introduced to the program.
“We anticipate implementing that at the beginning of the school year at St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools, maybe about three weeks after the beginning of school. … “ the chief said. “The program is going to be funded in part by the Belmont County Juvenile Court, in part by St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools, in part by the St. Clairsville Police Department, and we’ve gotten donations from St. C. Rotary. …
“This is a pilot program. It’ll give us a chance to fine-tune the presenters of the program and deploy the game, get an idea for how long each section is going to take with questions and answers. … Once we get it smoothed out, there’s a good possibility (juvenile court will) want to expand that program into other school systems.”
The city and the public also recognized members of the force for their work and community outreach.
During last week’s City Council meeting, Councilwoman Beth Oprisch relayed a thank-you message from an out-of-state resident thanking Patrolman Greg Clark for assisting her with recent car trouble.
“She said he went above and beyond the call of duty,” Oprisch said.
“We’re blessed with some good employees,” Council President Jim Velas said.
And Patrolman Kevin Yates was presented with a safety award for saving a teenage girl’s life when she went into cardiac arrest in February.
“I performed CPR until fire department and ambulances could get there,” Yates said.
The co-employees of the month for July were Patrolmen T.J. Weyand and Michael Duplaga.
“The reason why they were nominated, in the past year Officer Weyand and Duplaga have not only performed beyond expectations as individual officers, but furthermore their combined efforts on drug interdiction and investigations have yielded the largest illegal drug seizures and arrests in this department’s history, and the largest felony drug trafficking sentencing in the county history,” Safety and Service Director Jeremy Greenwood said.
The officers’ work led to the conviction of Benjamin Charles Cutlip, sentenced early in June for drug trafficking and aggravated possession of more than 400 grams of methamphetamines. Cutlip, 42, was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years behind bars.